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It’s time for televised women’s racing
 
By Imelda March
Date:
It’s time for televised women’s racing
 
When was the last time you saw a women’s bicycle race on television? I can almost assure you that it was during the London Olympic Games. Have you seen a race on television since? Not likely.

There has been plenty of online chatter about the need for the resurgence of a women’s version of the Tour de France (TdF)—despite legal hassles that ensued in the past for using such a name for a women’s event. “Tour Feminin” was used for the women’s version of a French race last held in 2009. At that time, the race lacked media coverage, purse parity and sponsorship.

To gain more visibility for women’s cycling through television and online live streaming, why not start with a racing infrastructure that is already in place—like the Giro Rosa?

Widely televised in Europe, the Giro Rosa could use a shot in the arm for it to go global. This year’s Giro Rosa was held June 30 to July 7, starting in Puglia and ending in Lombardy. It featured eight stages, for a total distance of 801.90 kilometers/498.27 miles. The Tour de France began June 29 and will end July 21, covering 3,043 kilometers/1,890 miles and featuring 21 stages.

The Giro Rosa was televised through the RAI network (Italy’s national public broadcasting company) and streamed live free of charge regionally. Unfortunately, we in the U.S. were not allowed to view the live broadcasts. The only option was to tune in after the fact through Giro Rosa You Tube.

The race featured a worldwide A-list of women riders such as World Champion Marianne Vos (Belgium); former World Champion Giorgia Bronzini (Italy); Laura Trott (UK); double World and European Champion in the team pursuit, American Evelyn Stevens (who went from Wall Street to pro cycling); and past Giro Champion Mara Abbott--to name a few.

There is a petition being circulated requesting the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the current promoter of the Tour de France, to put on a women’s version of the TdF along with the current globally streamed and televised event. The petition was started by four female champion cyclists: Emma Pooley, Kathryn Bertine, Marianne Vos and Chrissie Wellington. To read the full statement and sign the petition, click here This petition recently garnered worldwide attention through networks such as CNN, Bicycle Magazine, Montreal Gazette, NPR, USA Today, LA Times, CBC News and many more.

For now, I believe that the Giro Rosa already has the infrastructure in place to solve the issue of a televised professional women’s cycling event. It merely requires a few tweaks to go global, ensuring that the rest of the world learns that—surprise—women race their bikes in the same manner as men. The race could replicate what the TdF does to promote the event globally— offering world travelers the opportunity to ride the same courses the professionals will ride, VIP treatment for those willing to pay, close ups with the riders, special mobile apps, streaming privileges from any device worldwide, etc. I have yet to see such offers for any women’s racing event.

Since the Giro Rosa is already televised and has all the things required for the rest of the world to see a cycling race live, all organizers have to do is to hire a few multilingual sport journalists for this to be a great globally televised women’s racing event. How many times have we heard about Jens Voight and his “shut up legs” story or Tony Martin’s crashes from the male television commentators? Between all these updates about men’s professional lives they could insert commentary about current women’s races.

I remember hearing news during the TdF broadcast on July 4 when American Mara Abbott won a stage 6 of the Giro Rosa and, with the win, taking over the lead in the general classification from World Champion Marianne Vos. The announcers actually commented on air about her win; however, that was the only time I heard it. Until major women’s cycling races are broadcast to a world audience, how brilliant would it be for the ASO to form a strategic alliance with the Giro Rosa to provide updates and briefs about that race’s coming and goings? Wow! All those eyes and ears listening and learning about women’s racing? Pretty damn brilliant.

REFERENCES

La Grande Débâcle: What's wrong with the women's Tour de France?

Tour de France Féminin

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About the author: An experienced racer, Imelda March lives in Chicago and is a member of Team Kenda. She is a frequent contributor to The Daily Peloton Cycling News team, reporting on women’s cycling news and general peloton ramblings. She also holds an MBA, is a marketing strategy expert, and is a social media team member/contributor to the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association.


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